Today’s Daily Prompt: “If you were forced to give up one sense, but gain super-sensitivity in another, which senses would you choose?”
The first question this raises for me is what do we mean by “senses”. The five classic senses? These are hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. (It was the medieval recognition of just these that got us the idea of the “sixth sense”.)
On top of these senses we actually have at least five more.
- The ventibular sense of balance and acceleration.
- Thermoception of hot and cold temperatures.
- Proprioception or kinesthetic sense of the relative position of the parts of your body. This is what allows you to close your eyes and touch your nose.
- Nociception is the technical term for the recognition of physical pain.
- Chronoception is our sense of time.
We also have interoception which is a range of sensations about what is happening inside our body. It is these that controls such things as vomiting and our gag reflex, among other things. The Wikipedia page on senses has a good explanation of it all.
So which one would I lose? All of them are incredibly useful. I couldn’t lose sight or hearing and still enjoy theatre and music. How could I make love without a sense of touch? I couldn’t enjoy food without taste.
All the ones on the second list are much too useful. My Mum had a disease that robbed her of her proprioception and it was amazing the difference it made to her mobility, for example. Losing the ventibular sense can be catastrophic, at the moment I am taking a drug that causes orthopaedic hypotension – in other words when I stand up quickly my blood pressure lowers and I become dizzy – I lose my ventibular sense. It’s a terrible feeling.
As a constant and life-long hay fever sufferer I’ve never had much sense of smell so I think I’ll lose that.
So long as losing smell doesn’t affect my sense of taste too much. Taste is too important and all those scientists tell me that smell is an important part of taste. I love good food. Can I risk it? Just to have one of my other senses super-sensitive?
So let me look at the other side of the equation. What sense would I like to have increased.
The problem with increasing the sensitivity of most of our senses is that we live in a world tuned to our existing set and how they function. If you increased the sensitivity of your hearing you would be blasted by the constant hum of traffic and people would be yelling at you all the time. Increase your sense of smell and the world would be full of noxious fumes. Increase taste and all your food would be over-salted or over-sweetened.
That really only leaves touch and sight.
Here’s two senses where we have to think about what we mean by “super-sensitivity”. With touch do we mean when we touch or when others touch us? Or perhaps both? I have to say I like the idea of both but then I have a dirty mind.
Sight really interests me. As someone who reads and writes constantly I use my sight a great deal. I am also disabled in my sight. My eyes, like those of a lot of people, can no longer focus. A few years ago I had a cataract operation, this involves replacing the natural lenses in your eyes and replacing them with artificial ones. Unfortunately this means that the muscles used to bend the lens in your eyes and therefore focus can no longer do their work. It is for people like me that gradual trifocals were invented.
When I consider “super-sensitivity” for my sight I’d like that to include the ability to focus from extremely close to a long distance. If I can focus across that distance I’m also going to need to be able to see finer detail so we better shrink those receptors in my retina (that’s going to make computer screens and TVs more pixellated but everything has a downside). Finally I’d like to be able to comfortably see in both lower and higher light conditions (no sunglasses required, thank you).
So “super-sensitivity” for me includes super-adjustability. Given all that sight would be much more useful.
Would I be prepared to swap that for my already damaged sense of smell? I think I would.